Todd Bowles is on the hot seat with the Jets. Mike Maccagnan is not.
That may not seem fair, considering they came to New York together in 2015 and have had equal hands in this Jets mess ever since, but that’s the way it appears to be, according to several sources familiar with the Jets’ thinking. Bowles seems to be on the fast track to being fired after the season while Maccagnan’s job doesn’t appear to be in danger at all.
And the reason is simple: Maccagnan’s job is to build for the long term, and his long-stated plan has been to compete for a playoff berth in 2019. All his moves — including moving up in the draft to land the Jets their franchise quarterback — have been with that goal in mind. And part of that plan was to capitalize on the $100 million-plus in salary cap space he created for them to use next offseason.
So his job isn’t finished yet. And the Jets seem intent on allowing him to stay to see at least that part through.
Meanwhile, Bowles’ job has been to win and to develop his team: Two things he hasn’t been able to do since he started 10-5 in his first season. His record is 13-30 since then, including the horrific 41-10 loss at home to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. It’s hard to argue growth, development and progress after a game like that, especially when the team has now lost four in a row.
That’s not to say that Maccagnan is completely off the hook for this latest Jets disaster. It’s lost on no one that he’s the one who picked the players that are currently failing Bowles. His drafting has been suspect. Only 12 of 22 players from his first three drafts even remain with the organization. And despite all the money he had to spend in free agency last offseason, he didn’t find any receivers for rookie quarterback Sam Darnold and couldn’t fix the offensive line.
But he did land Darnold, and that’s the biggest part of his future plan. Once he struck out on free agent Kirk Cousins, who took less money to sign with the Minnesota Vikings, he traded three second-round picks to move up three spots in the NFL draft. Maccagnan thought he was moving up to land Baker Mayfield, according to an NFL source, but he ended up with Darnold, the top quarterback on his board.
Christopher Johnson, the Jets’ CEO, was thrilled with that bold move and has been enamored with the early returns from Darnold. At the very least, Maccagnan will be given time to see how Darnold will work out. He might face a playoffs-or-else ultimatum next season, but that could be more than Bowles will get.
The disaster on Sunday may have sealed that. Because before that, the biggest thing he had going for him was that his players seemed to love him and played hard for him, especially on defense. The game on Sunday was a major step back in that regard.
So that will leave Johnson to ponder whether Bowles has lost his grip on his players. And perhaps more importantly, he needs to decide if he’s the right coach to shepherd Darnold in the early stages of his career, or if the Jets would be better off with a young, offensive-minded coach in what has become an increasingly offensive league.
No, he hasn’t exactly been dealt a stacked deck of players and Maccagnan is responsible for that. But the Jets so far seem comfortable with his long-term plan and vision. The fates of Bowles and Maccagnan are not intertwined. They may have come in together nearly four years ago, but if changes are made, Bowles will likely be the first to go.